27 children die after eating cassava at Philippine school
Wailing parents carried the bodies of their children from hospitals after a snack of cassava killed 27 and sickened 100 others Wednesday at an elementary school in south-central Philippines.
With the nearest hospital 30 kilometres away from San Jose school, in Bohol island's Mabini town, some victims died while being carried in a variety of vehicles, including three-wheel motorcycle taxis.
"Her friend is gone. She died," Doliente said. Her niece was being treated, she said.
The roots of the cassava plant, a major crop in the tropical countries, are rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. However, cassava is poisonous unless it is peeled and thoroughly cooked. If it is eaten raw or prepared incorrectly, one of its chemical constituents will be attacked by digestive enzymes and give off the deadly poison cyanide. As little as two cassava roots can contain a fatal dose.
Mabini Mayor Stephen Rances said 27 students were confirmed dead.
The victims suffered severe stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea. They were taken to at least four hospitals from the school in Mabini, about 600 kilometres southeast of the capital, Manila.
Sobbing parents left hospitals carrying the bodies of their children wrapped in blankets.
Some victims were still vomiting nearly 12 hours after eating the snack, said Dr. Nenita Po of the government-run Gov. Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital. However, those who were alive when they reached the hospital had a good chance of surviving, Po said.
He said some worried parents brought in their children even if they did not show any symptoms of poisoning.
Grace Vallente said her seven-year-old nephew Noel died en route to the hospital and that her nine-year-old niece Roselle was undergoing treatment.
"There are many parents here," she said from L.G. Cotamura Community Hospital in Bohol's Ubay town. "The kids who died are lined up on beds. Everybody's grief-stricken."
Dr. Leta Cutamora confirmed 14 dead at the hospital and 35 admitted for treatment.
Po said 15 patients were brought there, including the 68-year-old woman who prepared the cassava along with another woman. Officials wanted to talk with the ailing woman, but said she was complaining of pain.
A specimen of the cassava was taken for inspection at the local Crime Laboratory Group.